Monday, July 11, 2016

Changing the Cast

Behind the Story of Whispers of the Dead  (Part 4)

   
Warning:  this post contains spoilers for Whispers of the Dead, and I recommend reading the book first.  Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.
   
Taking an old book I hadn’t been satisfied with, I had tossed most of what I’d written and started developing a new novel based on the original idea.  I’d gotten rid of most of the people populating the story and needed to find new actors to fill out the cast.  And even the two I’d kept would find their roles radically revised.
    Although their personal histories had changed, Roshike and Teresa, the pair of characters I still had in hand, were essentially the same people they’d been before.  But the differences in their backgrounds would alter the nature of their relationship – rather than romantic, it would be more employer and employee – and shift the trajectory of their stories going forward.  Teresa was still rebelling against her elite mother and all the woman stood for.  The form that rebellion took, and what it would mean for Teresa, changed.
    Roshike had still started as an orphan boy on the streets stealing to survive, but the nature of the Batsu and the way they operated altered how that experience affected him.  He had (again) been taken in and raised by mysterious mountain dwellers before returning to the city as a young man.  But I introduced a new character, Tetsuba – the individual who’d rescued and raised him – and even though she never appears outside his memories, she had a big impact on how he grew up and the man he became.
    The only other character of any significance in the original short story was little more than a stock villain.  To replace him, I found Bob, who had a fascinating history and felt more real to me.  His time on stage would still be brief, but with a richer background to draw them from, I was able to cast more interesting actors in even the smallest roles.  People like Carl and Futoh, who had plenty of personality.
    Eliminating everything after the events of that one disastrous night had gotten rid of a lot of supporting characters.  None of them had been worth saving (as written) but because the basic premise of the new story I was writing was the same, I knew I’d need people to play similar parts.
      Having created the ‘Yes Network’ helped me discover Keep and Tash and Seiko and Mark, who had their pale shadows in the old novel.  But these new people had real life flowing in their veins.  Seiko and Mark, particularly, couldn’t even be recognized as cousins of the characters who’d filled comparable roles in the original story.  Those two would take over their parts to the degree that they’d drive the story in entirely new directions.  And play vital roles, not only in this book but in the ones to come.
    Then there was another fresh addition to the cast.  As Tetsuba had been important to Roshike’s past and who he had become, this mysterious woman would be important to his future and who he would become.  The inspiration for Shindako (or Shin as she likes to be called) came from something I’d written in one of my other books (but I’d better not say what or which, as that might constitute a major spoiler for Books 2 and 3 of the Miraibanashi trilogy.)  With her to round out the cast, everything began to gel.
    The story was starting to come together, and I was ready to write the first draft and find out exactly how it would all unfold.  But the ghost of the old book would bother me along the way.
   
Next:  Part 5 – Old Ghosts and New Inspiration

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